Following Keller(Proc Symp Appl Math 1962;13:227:46), we classify all theoretical treatments of electromagnetic scattering by a morphologically complex object into first- principle (or "honest" in Keller s terminology) and phenomenological (or "dishonest") categories. This helps us identify, analyze, and dispel several profound misconceptions widespread in the discipline of electromagnetic scattering by solitary particles and discrete random media. Our goal is not to call for a complete renunciation of phenomenological approaches but rather to encourage a critical and careful evaluation of their actual origin, virtues, and limitations. In other words, we do not intend to deter creative thinking in terms of phenomenological short-cuts, but we do want to raise awareness when we stray (often for practical reasons) from the fundamentals. The main results and conclusions are illustrated by numerically-exact data based on direct numerical solutions of the macroscopic Maxwell equations.